A Meal for Branding Season: Barb Clark Shares Food and Family Traditions | TSLN.com

A Meal for Branding Season: Barb Clark Shares Food and Family Traditions

Pat and Barb Clark and their family ranch near Athboy, South Dakota. If you can’t find it on the map, don’t worry; it’s an old ghost town in the middle of nowhere in western Corson County. Both Pat and Barb grew up in the area, and they raised their four children close to their ranching roots.

Barb was involved with her family’s brandings from a young age, helping with both the calf rassling and the meal preparation.

“We were raised to do both,” she said. “I have many memories out in the branding pen but I always helped Mom with the meal as well, especially with the preparation work the day before. I continued to do both when Pat and I got married.”

Branding brings extended family, friends and neighbors together to share in the cowboy tradition of gathering, roping and branding the calves. Work and food are shared and enjoyed as everyone, old and young, does their part.

“When our moms were younger, they would both help to babysit the meal for me,” Barb said. “They would turn the meat up or down as needed, depending on how the work went. Life is about seasons; now that they are both aging and I have daughters-in-law and grandbabies I see myself spending a little more time in the kitchen and a little less time outside on branding days. But I like to do both.”

Barb gleaned from helping her mother in the kitchen and also learned a lot from her mother-in-law’s example.

“Pat’s mom often made Sour Cream Raisin Pie for branding, but more than the cooking I have learned from her how to plan ahead, stay organized, and keep things going when plans change,” she said. “On branding day, you never know if the guys are going to be ready three hours late or an hour earlier than expected! When I was growing up we ‘farmer flopped’ the calves and everything was done right in the home corrals, so we would always break right at noon for our meal. Up here, Clarks roped and dragged the calves, generally several miles from the place and never in the same place two years in a row. Mavis was always very organized, and she never forgot anything. I’m getting there, but still have a ways to go!”

Barb doesn’t have a standard menu for their branding meal, although a few selections have become a running tradition over the years.

“The men get a lot of roast beef and macaroni salad this time of year,” she said. “I try to mix it up a little and switch off with different salads and main dishes; some years I do roast, sometimes we grill hamburgers. I like to cook and I enjoy doing different things from year to year.”

Barb’s sister Becky usually brings homemade donuts, and Barb makes handy Sausage-Egg Squares so the guys don’t start the day off hungry, but from there out the rest of the day may be a surprise.

“My sister often makes and brings donuts, using mom’s recipe,” she said. “On occasion mom would make them for our branding when we were growing up, and they are something our crew looks forward to. The Sausage-Egg Squares are something unique that we serve every year. A lot of the crew doesn’t eat breakfast beforehand, or they’re coming from ninety miles away, so it’s something that’s not sugary and also gluten free for those with health concerns. It’s not your typical egg bake, it’s thinner. I cut it into small pieces and it’s a handy finger-food.”

Clarks don’t quit for their main meal until the branding is done, so for the first break of the morning Barb serves the Sausage-Egg Squares along with meat and cheese slices. For the second break she serves the ‘Best Ham Sandwiches’ so that the crew has some protein to go along with the bars and donuts.

Even though it takes some juggling, Barb enjoys both helping out at the branding corrals and preparing the meal. Even if things don’t turn out perfectly, a hungry crew is not likely to be fussy.

“There have been a few times that I told them, ‘this was a pretty good meal around noon,’” she chuckled. “But we’re pretty far from McDonalds—and nobody complains if it’s not perfect.”

Barb said that her favorite part of branding day is the fellowship with extended family and good neighbors.

“I enjoy seeing everyone gather together for branding, watching everyone work together and socialize after a long spring,” Barb said. “We have such good neighbors, and I enjoy the camaraderie with our neighbors. These are good lessons for the younger generation to learn too. Branding is really a good time to reflect, both on the work of the season and also on God’s goodness. None of us would be here without God’s provision. We have lots to be thankful for, and branding is a good time to express that!”

Neighbors and family gather to accomplish the branding job in short order before Barb Clark's delicious meal. Photos courtesy Clark family
A job that seems daunting for a couple of people is fun with a handy crew.
Branding day brings family, friends and neighbors together to share in cowboy traditions, pass on the skills of roping and wrestling calves, and enjoy a good meal.
Barb Clark enjoys cooking for the branding crew.
The crew is always thankful for the homemade meal.
There is a job for nearly everyone willing to help.
The Pat and Barb Clark family of Athboy enjoy passing ranching traditions on to the next generation. Jody Wynette
Courtesy photo
Raised Doughnuts—Lillian Flatmoe


3 cups scalded milk

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup butter

4 eggs, beaten

2 tsp salt

4 packages yeast

2 cups mashed potatoes

10 cups flour (maybe more)

Stir butter and sugar into scalded milk. Add eggs, salt, yeast, mashed potatoes and flour. Let raise until doubled. Punch down. Let raise again. Roll out. Cut into circles. Let raise. Pull hold in the middle. Fry in hot oil. Glaze while warm.

** If using instant potatoes, use 1 ½ c. potato flakes a& 2 c. hot water.


1 pound powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 Tablespoon milk

2 tablespoons butter

Mix together. Add enough hot water to make glaze consistency of gravy.

Sausage-Egg Squares


1 lb. bulk pork sausage

1 c. (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

1 c. (4 oz) shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

½ c. finely chopped onion

1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies

1 Tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper

10 eggs

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp salt

½ tsp. garlic powder

½ tsp. pepper

In a large skillet, brown sausage and drain. Place in greased 9 x 13 pan. Layer with cheeses, onion, chilies and jalapeno. In a bowl, beat eggs and seasonings. Pour over cheese. Bake uncovered at 375 20-25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then cut into 1 ½” squares.

The Best Ham Sandwiches Ever


2-12 pkg. sweet Hawaiian rolls

1 ½ lbs. Virginia Ham (not honey ham)

12 slices Swiss cheese

¾ c. butter

1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard

1 ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ tsp dried onion

Poppy seeds

Place the bottoms of 12 rolls in each of two 9 x 13 pans. Place ham (about 2 slices) on each roll. Cut the cheese slices into 4 parts and place 2 small pieces on each sandwich. Put the dinner roll tops on. In a saucepan, mix butter, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and dried onions. Wait until all butter is melted and then put the melted mixture over the ham sandwiches. Sprinkle the buns with poppy seeds and cover with foil. Refrigerate overnight if possible. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350, uncovered and serve. They are great hot and at room temperature.

Calico Beans

Barb likes to change up her main dishes and salads for their branding meal, but Calico Beans are an annual staple.

1 can red kidney beans

1 can lima beans

2 cans pork & beans

1 lb. bacon cut in 1” pieces

1 lb. hamburger

2/3 c. brown sugar

½ c. sugar

2 tsp vinegar

½ c. catsup

½-1 tsp salt

½ tsp dry mustard

Drain kidney and lima beans. Place in 3 qt. baking dish. Add pork & beans. Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove. Brown beef and onions in skillet. Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Add bacon, beef and sauce to beans. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 300.

Potato Salad—Barb Clark


1 cup real mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons sour cream

1 tsp. vinegar or pickle juice

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp mustard

1/8 tsp dill week

1 tsp minced onion

4 cooked potatoes

2 cooked eggs

Relish or chopped dill pickle

Cut up eggs in slices; dice potatoes, add ingredients in given order in a large bowl: Adjust dressing for desired amount of potatoes and eggs.

Raspberry Pudding Salad


1 box 5.1 oz instant pudding

32 oz. container vanilla yogurt

8 oz Cool Whip (thawed)

1 12 oz. pkg frozen raspberries

Combine pudding mix and yogurt. Stir until well mixed. Fold Cool Whip into the mixture. Lastly, fold in raspberries.

Fudge Bars

Barb shared these recipes for bars that hold together well in transport.

“My mother-in-law always remembered all of the serving utensils when taking food to a branding crew,” she said. “I am still working on remembering everything!”

1 (12 oz.) pkg chocolate chips

1 (15 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

3 Tablespoons butter

2 tsp vanilla

1 c. butter

2 eggs

2 c. brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 12/ c flour

1 tsp soda

1 tsp salt

3 c. oatmeal

Melt first 3 ingredients in microwave or double boiler. Add 2 tsp vanilla. Set aside. Cream next 4 ingredients. Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Stir well. Press 2/3 dough into a greased 10 x 15 pan. Cover with chocolate mixture, then crumble remaining dough on top. Bake 20 minutes at 350.



1 c. sugar

1 c. corn syrup

16 oz. peanut butter

5 c. rice Krispies

12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

12 oz. butterscotch chips

Bring the sugar and corn syrup to a boil. Immediately remove from heat.

Stir in peanut butter until well blended. Add rice Krispies. Press into a 13 x 18 pan.

Melt chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. Stir until well blended. Spread on rice Krispie layer.

Caramel Layered Bars

Caramel Layered Bars

32 caramels

5 Tablespoons cream

1 c. oatmeal

1 c. flour

¾ c. brown sugar

½ tsp soda

¾ c. melted butter or margarine

½ tsp salt

½ c. nuts

Melt 32 caramels with 5 tablespoons cream. Cool. Combine oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, soda, butter, salt. Pat 1/2 of mixture into a 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes. Sprinkle nuts on crust. Pour melted caramel over top. Sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Bake 20 minutes or until light brown at 350.


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